Story! I remember when I was young, I was very scared of escalators. In fact, I would refuse to step onto one unless one of my parents was holding my hand, and this persisted past the time my mom thought I should be over such needs.

Escalators seem to be one of those things that most people consider an easy alternative to going up or down stairs and I don’t think many people really think about them beyond that. I do, however, occasionally see people talking about escalators as difficult in terms of sensory processing, and that got me thinking.

In processing terms, there is kind of a lot going on with escalators. Just stepping on to one is this fraught process involving needing to know exactly where your feet are while tracking the motion of these constantly moving stairs and getting your feet in the right position at exactly the right time to get on, and then moving forward hopefully smoothly to transfer your weight onto your now-moving foot so that you can get your other foot on. Gods help you if you need to manage luggage or something at the same time.

And neurotypicals find this easy? Wow.

Needless to say, I prefer the stairs. Not because of fitness (though I suppose that helps) but because stairs are easier. And this is coming from someone who doesn’t always know where exactly her feet are, so stairs are actually kind of tricky too. Just less tricky than trying to get onto or off of an escalator.

All of which is to say, I don’t really process some things all that quickly. It isn’t universal. I can’t just say “I process slowly” and have that be it. I’ve been told that in some contexts (like maybe crafting) I can pull things together in my head at lightening speed. Which is cool. But sensory processing? Not so much. That can be downright slow. The same is true of social processing – seriously un-speedy. When you combine sensory processing and social processing – like, say, listening to someone talk – once in a while that is downright snail-like. Not always. I can turn it up when I know I’ll need to be using it, but if it’s unexpected then… well, yeah. Slow city.

I don’t think this post has much of a point. Honestly, I just wanted to tell the escalator story and talk about how scary and complicated they can be when you actually need to deliberately think through everything involved in using one of those contraptions. Real time sensory processing where TIMING IS EVERYTHING.

No thanks, I’ll just use the stairs.


Filed under ramble

3 responses to “Processing

  1. Escalators are scary things. Growing up, my brother was always afraid of escalators because he was blind in one eye and had trouble stepping onto them the right way… I guess it effects your depth perception. I have terrible depth perception too, and although I can’t say I’m afraid of escalators, it always takes me an extra moment to carefully get on one, while other people just casually stroll on.

  2. Dan

    I love machinery, especially shiny machinery, and that photo has it! Beauty! And an odd number of escalators, too… were they all going in the same direction? The symmetry seems perfect except for the blue sign at the top. What were they thinking?
    I used to inch up to the escalator until my toes were over the edge of the flooring, where the escalator is still flat, and shift my weight to my toes. When my toes made contact, the steps pulled me forward; I was relieved of the burden of timing the steps, and especially didn’t have to step into that area where the steps continually change dimensions. After I was on, I could compensate for the step dropping away because it does so slowly.
    There I was, again, sitting in school, thinking about escalators (actually, I was processing outside of real-time,) but this time I flipped the question. Rather than “How can I do that safely?” I tried: “How would I have to step to be hurt the worst?” Like, “What if, while going up, my toe ran up against the next step, how would my foot come to rest on the current step? Would I break my ankle? What if my heel (or toe) was off the edge?” etc. Eventually I decided that the only way I could really get hurt was if my toe or heel was just barely on and it slipped off. Once I had that, I knew every other kind of foot placement must be ok.
    It’s easier to aim toward a target than it is to aim away from its opposite – like trying to aim away from your manhole cover’s rim, or like changing lanes while driving: I aim toward the empty spot, rather than aim away from the car(s). At the escalator, I look at my foot and place my arch on the split between two steps, going up or going down. Real time sensory processing AVOIDED! (Well, some of it anyway).

  3. I thought I was the only one! I get on escalator’s with a white knuckled grip on the handrail (going down is much worse) I cannot run down the stairs. I do not have a diagnosis of anything I’m just really unco-ordinated.